Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Mass-Central at Gilbertville—an example of digital photography.

I find one of the great benefits of digital photography is the ability to carry a high-quality imaging machine with me at all times. Also, other than the initial investment, the relative cost of individual photos is inconsequential.

As result, I’m unhindered by weight or cost in the seeing and making of photos.

Does this make for better images? Not necessarily, but it facilitates me to make a more complete record of my travels and capture ordinary scenes such as this view of the Mass-Central at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on a brilliant October 2014 afternoon.

Looking south on the old Boston & Albany Ware River Branch at Gilbertville, Massachusetts on October 14, 2014. Lumix LX7 photo.

Tracking the Light posts Daily.

In the Dark: 30 Seconds, Five Years Ago.

On February 25, 2012, I exposed this 30-second exposure at New England Central’s yard in Palmer, Massachusetts.

I mounted my Lumix LX7 on heavy tripod, and actuated the shutter using the self-timer to minimize vibration. Note the effect of the clouds moving.

This is a scaled JPG made from the unaltered Lumix LX3 JPG file.
By adjusting exposure and contrast in the RAW file I was able to produce this improved version. Notice the detail in the shadow areas that was lost in the JPG.

Despite the long exposure, the resulting digital image was still too dark and required work in post-processing using Lightroom.

In addition to lightening shadow areas, I also lightened the entire exposure by about full-stop, while controlling highlights and softening overall contrast.

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Whose Railroad is this?

An old favorite photo location is the Connecticut River bridge at East Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, photographer Mike Gardner and I caught two freights crossing this traditional span within just a few minutes of each other.

The first was eastward autorack train symbol 28T operating to Ayer, Massachusetts with Norfolk Southern locomotives. A few minutes later, Pan Am freight POED (Portland to East Deerfield) worked west with recently acquired former CSX General Electric DASH8-40Cs.

Autorack (Norfolk Southern symbol 28T) works east across the Connecticut River. Exposed using a Lumix LX-7. RAW file modified for contrast and color using Lightroom.
Pan Am’s POED with former CSX DASH8-40C diesels. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.
Pan Am’s POED with former CSX DASH8-40C diesels. Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 digital camera.

Historically this was the Boston & Maine’s Fitchburg line; B&M was melded into the Guilford system in the 1980s and in the mid-2000s . Today, Pan Am and Norfolk Southern are partners in operating Boston & Maine lines west of Ayer as Pan Am Southern.

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CSX Rolling West after Sunrise.

Over the last 39 years I’ve exposed countless hundreds of photos of trains rolling through Palmer, Massachusetts. But that’s not stopped me from continuing the exercise.

Friday, December 23, 2016, I was at CP83 near the Steaming Tender restaurant, when the signals lit up: high green on the mainline for a westward move. That was my cue to get ready.

The previous day I’d gone fishing through the camera cabinet and found an old Nikkormat FT. Perfect! I loaded this up with some HP5 and set out making photos old school. It had been 20 years since I last worked with Nikkormat. I fitted it with a vintage Nikkor 24mm lens.

With this antique in hand I set up a shot by the old Palmer Union Station (Steaming Tender) using the building to partly shade the rising sun. I’d misplaced my handheld lightmeter, so I used my Lumix LX7 to help gauge the exposure.

This was a tricky, I wanted the sun light to be set apart from the skylight and normally this requires a bit of underexposure. But I didn’t want the front of the locomotives to become completely opaque. Ideally, I’d want there to be some detail in the shadows.

As the headlight of a westward freight appeared to east I was still dithering over my exposure. Ultimately I settled on f11 1/500th of a second.

CSX symbol freight Q427 rolls through Palmer on the morning of December 23, 2016. Exposed on Ilford HP5 with a Nikkormat FT and 24mm lens. Notice how I’m just letting the sun peak past the station building. A small aperture (f11) aids with the starburst lighting.
I’ve always like the glint effect, and so I made this view of the second locomotive as it rolled by at 30mph. I realize that photographing the second locomotive at speed is a non-standard approach, but it makes for a nice image, does it not?

The trick to bring up the shadow detail was more a result of my processing technique. I needed to retain enough detail in the negative to work with, but once that was established on site, the rest of the work was with the chemistry.

I’ve described this a few times in recent months, but I’ll mention it again:

Before the main process, I prepare a ‘pre-soak’. In this case, I used a Jobo semi-automated processing machine with continuously reversing agitation.

My ‘presoak’ bath consisted of about 200ml of water at 74 degrees F (pardon my mixing of measurement standards) with a drop of Kodak HC110 (about 2-3 ml of developer solution), plus some Kodak Photoflo.

I let film presoak for about 3-4 minutes. Long enough to let the emulsion swell and for the minimal quantity of developer to become completely exhausted. This has the effect giving the shadow areas proportional more development than the highlights, while getting the processing reaction going.

For my main developer, I used Kodak D76 mixed 1-1 with water at 69F for 9 minutes. (This is less than the recommended time of about 11 minutes).

Afterwards I scanned the film using an Epson V750 at 4800 dpi. The photos presented here are scaled in Lightroom from my hi-res files.

A cropped detailed view of the front of the leading locomotive. This view is intended to show that there is reasonable detail in the shadow areas. If I want to I can enhance the shadow contrast in post processing.

No good? Don’t like it? No problem, I can go back and try it all over again!

Tracking the Light Discusses Photography Every Day!

Central Vermont at the Palmer Diamond—1977.

This was one of several photos I exposed with my father’s Leica 3C in Palmer, Massachusetts on Labor Day weekend 1977. I started 6th grade a couple of days later.

Significantly, it was the first time I made a photo from this location at the Palmer Diamond, where Central Vermont crossed Conrail’s former Boston & Albany line. From near this spot, I’ve since made many hundreds of photos—more than I dare to count.

Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail's former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super angulon.
Grand Trunk GP9 4442 wearing black and orange paint leads a freight across Conrail’s former Boston & Albany mainline. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3C fitted with a 21mm Super-Angulon.

Compare this 1977 view with my recent images of a CSX eastward intermodal train. (I posted these the other day, but have also included them below.)

csx_q012_palmer_p1550721
In November 2016 a CSX intermodal train crosses the Palmer Diamond. This view is made from a spot immediately to the east of my 1977 view.

csx_q012_palmer_p1550722Looking back, I wonder why it took me so long to decide to make photos here. But realistically, prior to summer 1977 my railway photographic efforts were infrequent events.

For my birthday that year, my dad gave me my own Leica, a model 3A, which I carried everywhere for the next seven years and with which I made thousands of images from the Maine coast to southern California, and from Quebec to Mexico.

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Black & White-Morning Light: CSX at Gardner, Massachusetts.

But wait, CSX doesn’t serve Gardner. True. However on this day in mid-November 2016, I photographed a pair of CSX GE Evolution-series diesels leading Pan Am Southern freight 287—an empty auto rack train from Ayer.

These days, passing locomotives don’t necessarily reflect either the owner or operator of the train they lead.

CSX diesels work Pan Am Southern at Gardner, Massachusetts.
CSX diesels work Pan Am Southern at Gardner, Massachusetts.

Dappled morning sun augmented the effects of a textured sky and late season foliage. I opted to make this image using my Leica 3A with 35mm Nikkor Lens loaded with Ilford Pan-F (ISO).

This film offers fine grain and broad tonality. I’m not yet expert at processing this emulsion. Previously I used Ilfosol with mixed results. This time I tried Kodak D76 mixed 1:1 (stock solution with water).

If my process was completely successful my negatives would scan perfectly without need of electronic post processing adjustments. This example provided a good starting point, but to make for the most pleasing image, still required local and global contrast control.

By the way, digital photographers may relax; I also exposed several frames with my FujiFilm X-T1–Just in case.

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The Lost Waterfall at Bernardston.

You never know what’s going to change.

Photo exposed using 120 size Ektachrome film. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell (light meter).
Photo exposed on 120 size Ektachrome film. Exposure calculated with a Sekonic Studio Deluxe handheld photocell (light meter).

I exposed this view twenty years ago using a Speed Graphic with 120 size roll film back that I’d borrowed from Doug More.

A decade earlier, fellow photographer Brandon Delaney had showed me this bridge at Bernardston, Massachusetts on the Boston & Maine’s Connecticut River Line.

The bridge survives much as pictured here;  today it serves as the route of Amtrak’s Vermonter. However the old mill dam with accompanying waterfall were destroyed sometime after I made this December 1996-view.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a contemporary angle of the bridge.

Tracking the Light Posts Daily.

 

25 October: 50 Photos to Mark the Day

All 50 photos were exposed on 25 October, albeit in different years.

Shamokin, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Shamokin, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Port Clinton, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Port Clinton, Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Reading Ramble in Pennsylvania; October 25, 1959. Photo by Richard Jay Solomon
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
1985_cr-track-gang-palmer-10-25-85-solomon-photo-x1000280
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 1985.
Newark, Delaware, October 25, 1991.
Newark, Delaware, October 25, 1991.
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1991.
D-Tower Grafton, West Virginia Near Eddystone Pennsylvania, October 25, 1992.
D-Tower Grafton, West Virginia, October 25, 1992.
East Grafton, West Virginia, October 25, 1992.
East Grafton, West Virginia, October 25, 1992.
Amtrak's Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
Amtrak's Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited approaching Cumberland, Maryland on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
CSX near Falls Cut, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1993.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail near Middlefield, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail west of Chester, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Conrail west of Chester, Massachusetts on October 25, 1996.
Vermont Rail System equipment on passenger special over New England Central near Stafford Springs, Connecticut, October 25, 1998.
Vermont Rail System equipment on passenger special over New England Central near Stafford Springs, Connecticut, October 25, 1998.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Cincinnati Union Station on October 25 2002.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
Sunrise at Palmer, Massachusetts October 25, 2009.
East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q264 at East Brookfield, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q168 at Charlton Depot, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
CSX Q168 at Charlton Depot, Massachusetts, October 25, 2009.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
Islandbridge Junction, Dublin, Ireland on 25 October 2011.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
CSX empty ethanol train near Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
Old Boston & Albany yard at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
Old Boston & Albany yard at East Brookfield, Massachusetts on October 25, 2013.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak train 71 at Hyde Park, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.

2014_mbta_matapan_ashmont_pcc_cedar_grove_vert_p1090897

MBTA's Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.
MBTA’s Matapan-Ashmont line on October 25, 2014.

2014_vert_w_fence_img_9484

Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.
Amtrak 449 at Auburndale, Massachusetts on October 25, 2014.

And a final four exposed today, 25 October 2016:

Irish Rail 231 departs Heuston Station with the 0900 to Cork. 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail 231 departs Heuston Station with the 0900 to Cork. 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail 29000-seres train passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail 29000-seres train passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail training special passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
Irish Rail drivers training special with preserved Cravens passes Seapoint, Dublin on 25 October 2016.
25 October 2016.
25 October 2016.

Tracking the Light is Daily.

 

CSX Intermodal catches the First Rays of Sunshine—Middlefield, Massachusetts.

Last May (2016), I made this view of an eastward CSX stack train descending the old Boston & Albany grade over Washington Hill.

I was just east of the old Middlefield Station (long defunct), where my late friend Bob Buck had exposed some classic images of B&A’s A1 Berkshires.

A hill behind me blocks the rising sun, until after 6:30am in May. I could hear the train descending as the first rays of sun tickled the iron. Morning clouds waft across the sky making for inky shadows.

Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.
Exposed using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light is on auto pilot.

Tracking the Light attempts to post daily! (even when plagued by technical faults, internet outages, and an ambitious travel schedule).

 

Ghost of the New England States; Budd-built Babbling Brook Blitzes Warren.

 

Yesterday’s (August 25, 2016) Boston section of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited carried an American classic: the streamlined Budd-built observation car Babbling Brook, a former New York Central car of the type that operated on the New England States (Boston-Chicago).

My dad and I made photos of Amtrak’s eastward Lake Shore Limited (train 448) by the recently restored Warren, Massachusetts railroad station.

New York Central Babbling Brook passes the old Warren, Massachusetts station on August 25, 2016. The New York Central System leased the Boston & Albany in 1900. Central’s Budd-built New England States Limited was B&A’s premier post-war passenger train and passed Warren daily. There were fewer line-side trees back then. This image was adjusted in post-processing using Light Room. I’ve tried to emulate the contrast and color palate of a late 1940s image.
New York Central Babbling Brook passes the old Warren, Massachusetts station on August 25, 2016. The New York Central System leased the Boston & Albany in 1900. Central’s Budd-built New England States was B&A’s premier post-war passenger train and passed Warren daily. There were fewer line-side trees back then. This image was adjusted in post-processing using Light Room. I’ve tried to emulate the contrast and color palate of a late 1940s image.
Telephoto view at Warren, Massachusetts.
Telephoto view at Warren, Massachusetts.

I made these views using my FujiFilm XT1. Pop exposed a Fujichrome color slide with his Leica M.

Brian Solomon’s

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Palmer, Massachusetts Then and Now; 1984-2016.

Conrail SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester at Worcester, Massachusetts) makes a drop at Palmer, Massachusetts on Ma7 6, 1984.
Conrail SEPW (Selkirk to Providence & Worcester at Worcester, Massachusetts) makes a drop at Palmer, Massachusetts on May 6, 1984.

I exposed these two views from almost the same angle on the South Main Street Bridge in Palmer, Massachusetts.

In 1984, Conrail operated the old Boston & Albany, and the main line was then a directional double track route under rule 251 (which allows trains to proceed in the current of traffic on signal indication).

SEPW has stopped on the mainline, while the headend has negotiated a set of crossovers to access the yard and interchange. That’s the head end off in the distance.

I made this 1984 view on Plus-X using a Leica fitted with a f2.8 90mm Elmarit lens.

The comparison view was exposed on July 25, 2016 using  a Lumix LX7 set at approximately the same focal length. Although similar, I wasn’t trying to precisely imitate the earlier view and was working from memory rather than having a print with me on site.

Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I used the ‘A’ mode and dialed in -1/3 to compensate for the bright sunlight and the dark side of the train. This image was extracted from the in-camera Jpeg and compressed for internet viewing, but I also made a RAW file of the same image. Both are to be archived on multiple hard drives.
Exposed using my Lumix LX7. I used the ‘A’ mode and dialed in -1/3 to compensate for the bright sunlight and the dark side of the train. This image was extracted from the in-camera Jpeg and compressed for internet viewing, but I also made a RAW file of the same image. Both are to be archived on multiple hard drives.

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The Happy Twinkle of Glint; CSX catches the Morning Light—June 2016

[Click the link to Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light for the full effect!]

The long days of June offer distinct lighting. In the morning the sun rises earlier and further north than the other times of the year, and this makes for photographic opportunity if you know where to look.

These days much of the Boston & Albany route east of Palmer is a tree tunnel, but West Warren has a nice vista with characteristic 19th century New England mill buildings complete with a mill-dam on the Quaboag River.

As long as I’ve been making photos on the old Boston & Albany mainline, there’s been a westward intermodal train that passes through the Quaboag Valley early in the morning.

In Conrail times it was symbol TV9 (TV=Trailvan; Boston to Chicago). With the transition to CSX operations this became Q119. Now with revised intermodal terminals and changes to train symbols, I think this morning train carries the Q019 symbol (which runs from Worcester, Massachusetts since the closure of Boston’s Beacon Park yard a few years ago).

Sunrise at West Warren, Massachusetts. CSX's Q-019 has just entered the scene. For me the mist on the river adds a delicious element. June 2016.
Sunrise at West Warren, Massachusetts. CSX’s Q-019 has just entered the scene. For me the mist on the river adds a delicious element. June 2016.

In the 1990s, I’d identified West Warren as a place to catch this train on the long days; where the sun rises on the north side of the tracks for about 10-20 minutes. This only occurs over a span of about three weeks, and provides the backlit glint effect that offers a distinct view at this classic location.

The other day, all the pieces came together. The weather was perfect; I was in place at my location with cameras at the ready at the moment the sun illuminated the north-side of the tracks; and CSX’s westward intermodal train passed at precisely the right moment.

Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens and graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail.
Exposed using a FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm lens and graduated neutral density filter to hold sky detail.

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Conrail-Looking Back; Anticipating Change.

I was on my way to New London, Connecticut in late 1996 when I first learned of the news that CSX was to make a bid for Conrail.

It was a big surprise to most observers. Ultimately CSX and Norfolk Southern divided Conrail.

Armed with the knowledge of Conrail’s pending split, I made many images to document the final months of Conrail operations.

Step back a decade: In the mid-1980s, I’d photographed  the end of traditional double track operations on Conrail’s Boston & Albany line.

Long rumored, the B&A’s conversion from directional double-track (251-territory) to a single-main track with Centralized Traffic Control-style dispatcher controlled signaling and cab signals began in late 1985. It was largely complete three years later.

A year or so before the work began, I was sitting in an engine cab and a Conrail crewman pointed out to me that the railroad had re-laid one main track with continuous welded rail while the other line remained jointed.

“See that jointed track, that’s the line they’re going rip up. Better get your pictures kid.”

Sound advice. And I took it to heart. By anticipating the coming changes, I made many prized photographs of the old order—before the work began.

I continued to photograph while the work was in progress, but that’s not my point.

Conrail's C30-7A and C32-8 diesels roll east with tonnage at milepost 84 in Monson, Massachusetts. In this view, I'm looking toward the Palmer diamond, and in the distance we can see Central Vermont cars for interchange. At this stage Conrail was still operating the B&A as a traditional directional-double track railroad, much the way it had been operated for decades. Yet, it was only a matter of weeks before the old westward main (seen here with jointed rail) would be removed from service. This was mid-1986. By anticipating the changes to the railroad, I could emphasize the elements soon to change; the westward jointed track and the code lines. However, other more subtle changes also resulted. Without the old signals, the code lines came down, and the bushes and trees grew in their place.
Conrail’s C30-7A and C32-8 diesels roll east with tonnage at milepost 84 in Monson, Massachusetts. In this view, I’m looking toward the Palmer diamond, and in the distance we can see Central Vermont cars for interchange. This was mid-1986. At this stage Conrail was still operating the B&A as a traditional directional-double track railroad, much the way it had been operated for decades. Yet, it was only a matter of weeks before the old westward main (seen here with jointed rail) would be removed from service. . By anticipating the changes to the railroad, I could emphasize the elements soon to change; the westward jointed track and the code lines. However, other more subtle changes also resulted. Without the old signals, the code lines came down, and the bushes and trees grew in their place.

Having observed New England railroading for the better part of four decades, I again have a sense that change is in the works for railways in the region.

Will today’s operators remain as they are for long? Will traffic soon find new paths and may some lines—now active—dry up? Will those antique locomotives, more than four decades on the roll soon be sent for scrap? Those are the questions we should think about. Take nothing for granted and keep a sharp eye for images.

While,  my crystal ball remains clouded, I’ve learned not to wait for the big announcement. I hate standing in lines to get my photos or realizing I missed an opportunity when the time was ripe. Act now and stay tuned.

Tracking the Light Offers Insight and Stories Daily.

 

Conrail versus CSX; West Warren on the Boston & Albany Then and Now.

Ok, how about then and when? (click on the link to Brian Solomon’s Tracking the Light to see the modern view).

These photos were exposed 28 years apart from essentially the same place in West Warren, Massachusetts.

One view was made of an eastward Conrail freight in March of 1984; the other of an CSX freight at almost the same spot on November 15, 2012.

In both situations I opted to leave the train in the distance and take in the scene.

Conrail eastward freight grinds upgrade on a dull March 1984 morning. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summicron lens.
Conrail eastward freight grinds upgrade on a dull March 1984 morning. Exposed on black & white film using a Leica 3A with 50mm Summitar lens.
CSX Q264 (carrying auto racks for delivery in East Brookfield, Massachusetts). Exposed using a Lumix LX3 with Leica Vario-Summicron lens.
CSX Q264 (carrying auto racks for delivery in East Brookfield, Massachusetts). Exposed on the morning of November 15, 2012 using a Lumix LX3 with Leica Vario-Summicron lens.

Over the years I’ve worked this vantage point with a variety of lenses, but I’ve chosen to display these two images to show how the scene has changed over the years.

In the 1984 view notice the code lines (the ‘telegraph poles’) to the left of the train and the scruffy trees between the railroad and the road. Also in 1984, the line was 251-territory (directional double track).

Tracking the Light displays new images every day.

Conrail-Gauzy Visions from another era;—the Lost Photo File, Part 2.

 

Sometimes by getting it wrong, I got it right.

It was Spring 1984 when I made this black & white photo of Conrail’s SEBO-B climbing east through Warren, Massachusetts.

Until a couple of day’s ago, this negative was lost and unprinted, part of a group of Conrail negatives on the Boston & Albany.

When I first relocated these images after 32 years, I was puzzled.

What had happened and Why?

Then I remember the situation: I’d messed up the processing of the negatives at the time and I was disgusted with the results. And, so I’d put the negatives away in a general file, where they were mostly mixed in with similar outtakes from my High School yearbook collection (I was a sort of unofficial class photographer.)

In 1984, I’d typically use Kodak Microdol-X as my black & white developer, aiming to work with this solution at 68 degrees F.

To mix the solution from powdered form, I’d have to bring the temperature up to about 120 degrees F, then let it cool (often in glass bottles soaking in ice water).

I must have been in a hurry, and in this instance, I’d failed to allow the developer to cool properly. When I processed the negatives the solution was still over 80 degrees F. Worse, the rest of my chemistry was still at 68 degrees.

The result was that my photos were grossly over processed, but since the developer was highly active, it affected highlights and shadow areas differently. This provided much greater shadow detail to highlight detail than I’d normally expect.

Also, the shock to the emulsion when I dropped the hot film into relatively cool stop bath solution caused it to reticulate.

Reticulated emulsion results in grain clumping that lowers the sharpness, produces a ‘halo-effect’, and creates a speckled and uneven grain pattern that is most noticeable in even areas such as the sky.

Since the negatives received much greater development than usual, they are very dense, and back in my day printing photos in the family kitchen, were effectively unprintable.

This enlargement of the front of the engine shows the effects of reticulated grain structure. When processed as intended Kodak Tri-X can deliver a relatively fine and even grain structure. Here we have a mottled speckled structure caused by very hot developer and the shock of cool stop bath.
This enlargement of the front of the engine shows the effects of reticulated grain structure. When processed as intended Kodak Tri-X can deliver a relatively fine and even grain structure. Here we have a mottled speckled structure caused by shock from a  very hot developer followed by the cool stop bath.

With modern digital scanning and post processing techniques, I was able to overcome difficulties with the density and contrast.

In the Spring of 1984 (second week of May based on the freshly leafing trees) I made this early evening image of Conrail's SEBO-B working east through Warren, Massachusetts on the B&A route. (SEBO = Selkirk to Boston).
In the Spring of 1984 (second week of May based on the freshly leafing trees) I made this early evening image of Conrail’s SEBO-B working east through Warren, Massachusetts on the B&A route. (SEBO = Selkirk to Boston).

I find the end result pictorial. Perhaps, it’s not an accurate rendition of the scene, but pleasing to the eye none-the-less.

I’m just happy I didn’t throw these negatives away. After all, Conrail SD40-2s were common, and I had plenty of opportunities to photograph freights on the B&A.

Stay tuned for more!

Tracking the Light is Daily!

 

 

 

 

 

Boston & Maine GP18 at Ayer, Massachusetts.

It was a spirited chase; the day was fine and we made many photos.

But, was it really more than 31 years ago that my friends and I followed an extra freight, symbol EDLA from Erving to Ayer? (That was an East Deerfield to Lawrence, Massachusetts train, which  my notes show as an ‘EDLA-X’, but I’m not sure I have that down right.)

Even in 1985, catching a GP18-GP9-GP18 leading a freight on the old Fitchburg was considered a prize.

The Boston & Maine GP18s are long gone, but a few of the old GP9s are still knocking around.

My dad had lent me his Leica M4 and some lenses. On February 17, 1985. I exposed this image on Ilford FP4 at the East Wye in Ayer—after the freight had made its drop to the Hill Yard.
My dad had lent me his Leica M4 and some lenses. On February 17, 1985. I exposed this image on Ilford FP4 at the East Wye in Ayer—after the freight had made its drop to the Hill Yard.

Recently, I scanned this negative using my Epson V600. I processed the file in Lightroom and cleaned up some of the dust spots.

Something to ponder: later that evening, symbol freight POPY (Portland to Potomac Yard) went west with D&H Alco C-420s in the lead.

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Photographing an Ethanol Extra at Gardner, Massachusetts.

A few weeks ago, my friends and I met to explore recent changes to the old Boston & Maine Fitchburg Route (Pan Am Southern’s main line) including re-signaling and trackage upgrades.

Among the first places on our tour was Gardner, Massachusetts, where we found Norfolk Southern 66N, which is a loaded Ethanol train destined for the Port of Providence.

This was led by four Norfolk Southern DASH9-40CWs that were followed by an idler car and 80 cars of ethanol. The train was waiting on Pan Am rails for a Providence & Worcester crew to take it south from Gardner.

Among the recent changes was the installation of a crossover at the Gardner yard that makes it easier to make a progressive move from the old eastward B&M mainline track to the P&W, which facilitates operation of unit trains such as the 66N. This is a low-tech solution, as the switches are operated manually (of the ‘hand-throw’ type).

I made this series of images featuring the 66N with my FujiFilm X-T1.

Static and slow moving freights offer many opportunities for photography.

When we arrived the morning was clear and sunny, but over the next hour, clouds rolled in from the west and softened the light.

The classic 'wedge' a three-quarter view of locomotives in low morning sun. Clutter from old ties and related track components is part of the scene, should these be cropped?
The classic ‘wedge’ a three-quarter view of locomotives in low morning sun. Clutter from old ties and related track components is part of the scene, should these be cropped? Although these GE’s are leading an ethanol extra, there is nothing in the photograph to indicate this is any thing other than an ordinary eastward freight.
Detailed vertical view of the leading engine, a General Electric DASH9-40CW.
Detailed vertical view of the leading engine, a General Electric DASH9-40CW.
Using the FujiFilm X-T1's panorama mode, I exposed this multi frame panoramic composite. This image was assembled automatically in-camera. The wide view offers an interesting perspective on the Gardner yard and the four GE locomotives.
Using the FujiFilm X-T1’s panorama mode, I exposed this multi frame panoramic composite. This image was assembled automatically in-camera. The wide view offers an interesting perspective on the Gardner yard and the four GE locomotives.
After about an hour of patient waiting, the P&W crew was on board and nearly ready to proceed south. I made this slightly elevated view from a parking lot on the site of the old Gardner Station. In the yard is one of P&W's leased SD60s and some auto racks for interchange.
After about an hour of patient waiting, the P&W crew was on board and nearly ready to proceed south. I made this slightly elevated view from a parking lot on the site of the old Gardner Station. In the yard is one of P&W’s leased SD60s and some auto racks for interchange. Unfortunately, the auto racks block the view of the ethanol tanks. Note the crossover that links the old eastward mainline with the tracks in the P&W yard.
Norfolk Southern 66N takes the switch on to the P&W at Gardner.
Norfolk Southern 66N takes the switch on to the P&W at Gardner.

NS_66N_Ethanol_extra_Gardner_Yard_DSCF7673

Trailing view of the leading locomotive easing down the P&W toward the Route 2 underpass.
Trailing view of the leading locomotive easing down the P&W toward the Route 2 underpass. Soft light is excellent for showing detail on a largely black locomotive. This photo was made in Gardner, yet it could be almost anywhere.
Trailing view of NS 66N on the P&W at Gardner.
Trailing view of NS 66N on the P&W at Gardner. The 80 tanks make for a rolling pipeline. How many gallons of ethanol does this train carry?

Thanks to Rich Reed, Paul Goewey and Felix Legere.

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Palmer Hobbies Second Anniversary!

Today marks the second anniversary of the opening of Palmer Hobbies in Palmer, Massachusetts.

Located on Main Street, just a block from the famous Palmer diamond—where the New England Central crosses CSXT’s former Boston & Albany.

See: http://www.palmerhobbies.com

www.palmerhobbies.com
www.palmerhobbies.com
New products for viewing.
New products for viewing.
Palmer Hobbies is prominently located on Main Street. Come in and read their magazines!
Palmer Hobbies is prominently located on Main Street. Come in and read their magazines!

Bill_and_Rich_P1470932

Thanks to Doug Moore for reminding me of the correct anniversary day.

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Monson Tornado-Five Years Ago; Ten Original Photos [click on Tracking the Light to see all images]

See: http://briansolomon.com/trackingthelight/

It was five years ago today—June 1, 2011—when extremely unusual weather conditions produced a tornado that swept through Monson, Massachusetts and surrounding towns.

I’d just returned from Dublin a few days earlier.

I made a few photographs of the storm from my window on Moulton Hill Road. I only glimpsed the funnel for a few moments and the passage of the storm was remarkably quick.

Funnel cloud Monson, 4:55 pm June 1, 2011. Photograph by Brian Solomon with Lumix LX3 digital camera.
Funnel cloud Monson, 4:55 pm June 1, 2011. Photograph by Brian Solomon with Lumix LX3 digital camera.
Tornadic sky, Monson, Massachusetts shortly before 5pm on June 1, 2011. Lumix LX3 photo.
Tornadic sky, Monson, Massachusetts shortly before 5pm on June 1, 2011. Lumix LX3 photo.

Fortunately for us the funnel missed Moulton Hill by about 2 miles. Many others were not so lucky.

On June 3, 2011, I ventured into the village and made photographed evidence of the most extreme damage.

National Guard patrols Main Street Monson on June 3, 2011.
National Guard patrols Main Street Monson on June 3, 2011.

Dozens of buildings in town were destroyed and many thousands of trees were ruined. The event made national and international news.

These photographs are intended as a document of the event and its aftermath as I witnessed it and do not represent an interpretation of the storm nor complete record of its destruction.

First Church, Monson on June 3, 2011.
First Church, Monson on June 3, 2011.
First Church, Monson on June 3, 2011.
First Church, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Destruction on Washington Street, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Destruction on Washington Street, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Ruined buildings on Washington Street, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Ruined buildings on Washington Street, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Tornado damage, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Tornado damage, Monson on June 3, 2011.
Monson on June 3, 2011.
Monson on June 3, 2011.
Tornado damage in Monson as seen on June 3, 2011.
Tornado damage in Monson as seen on June 3, 2011.

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Boston & Albany at Rt 148 in Brookfield, Massachusetts, January 2001.

I made this study of CSX’s former Boston & Albany mainline at Brookfield, Massachusetts in January 2001.

Step back a century and there were two main tracks and an array of sidings here; back when the railroad focused on local business in addition to long distance traffic.

Brookfield, Massachusetts. Exposed on black & white negative film using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm Tessar lens.
Brookfield, Massachusetts. Exposed on black & white negative film using a Rolleiflex Model T with Zeiss 75mm Tessar lens.

CSX 611 at East Brookfield on the old Boston & Albany.

CSX 611 is a AC6000CW—a big GE diesel by any measure.

In January 2001, My pal T.S.H. and I were making an inspection of the old Boston & Albany between Palmer and Worcester, Massachusetts ( reliving a trip we’d made in the summer of 1984).

Brian Solomon_581952
CSX 611 leads a westward freight on the Boston & Albany route at East Brookfield in January 2001. Black & white 120 size negative scanned using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner and adjusted for contrast using Lightroom.

I exposed this view using a Rollei Model T that I’d bought from Mike Gardner.

My intent was to recreate a view I’d made of westward Conrail freight at the same location 16 years earlier.

Sadly, the old Boston & Albany station at East Brookfield was destroyed by arson in Autumn 2010.

Tracking the Light is on Autopilot today.

Bright Future and Rusty Foliage at Middlefield, Massachusetts.

CSX GP40-2 6214 leads a local freight at Middlefield, Massachusetts in October 2001.
CSX GP40-2 6214 leads a local freight at Middlefield, Massachusetts in October 2001.

Late October is a great time of year to photograph CSX’s former Boston & Albany line in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

Tracking the Light is on autopilot while Brian in Traveling!

 

Boston & Albany’s Washington Summit—Retrospective.

Once upon a time, long ago Boston & Albany’s main line over Washington Summit represented an engineering achievement and a lifeline of commerce that connected Massachusetts to the West.

Today, it is CSX’s Boston Line; but effectively a branch railway off the old Water Level Route.

Amtrak’s daily Lake Shore Limited traverses the line, as do periodic CSX freights, but its relative importance is but a pale shadow of it former greatness.

CSX_Muddy_Pond_Washington_Summit_DSCF2018
Washington, Massachusetts; looking railroad-east on the old Boston & Albany on February 27th, 2016.

I made this stark image at Muddy Pond using my 12mm Zeiss Touit lens; I controlled contrast using a Lee graduated filter, which I adjusted to even the exposure between sky and foreground.

Key to my composition is the jet contrail overhead, which for me represents both historical symbolism and my next step.

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Pan Am Railways on the Boston & Albany—February 2016.

In the last few months I’ve been lucky to catch a variety of the more obscure operations on the Pan Am Railways system.

Last week, Mike Gardner and I spent the afternoon around North Adams, Massachusetts.

EDRJ arrived with two locomotives to drop for local freight AD-1.

Pan Am AD-1 is seen on the Boston & Maine mainline at North Adams. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens.
Pan Am AD-1 is seen on the Boston & Maine mainline at North Adams. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 20mm lens.
Boston & Albany on the left, Boston & Maine on the right. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 70-000mm lens.
Boston & Albany on the left, Boston & Maine on the right. Exposed on HP5 using a Canon EOS-3 with 70-200mm lens.

Although, we had high hopes of following EDRJ west toward the Hudson River Valley (uttering the now-famous battle cry, ‘To the River!’), Pan Am had other ideas.

History will forgive them.

So instead we followed AD1 down the old Boston & Albany North Adams branch to Zylonite.

Zylonite on the old Boston & Albany, now Pan Am's Adams branch. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Zylonite on the old Boston & Albany, now Pan Am’s Adams branch. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.
Who would have thought a high-hood GP40 would be working the old North Adams Branch! This was once the territory of Alco road switchers. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Who would have thought a high-hood GP40 would be working the old North Adams Branch! This was once the territory of Alco road switchers. Exposed with a Lumix LX7
Pan Am local freight AD-1 on the Adams Branch at Zylonite.
Pan Am local freight AD-1 on the Adams Branch at Zylonite. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Looking north toward North Adams.
Looking north toward North Adams.
Former Canadian National Railways GP40-2L wears a nice shade of blue. Exposed with a Lumix LX-7.
Former Canadian National Railways GP40-2L wears a nice shade of blue. Exposed with a Lumix LX7.

I was familiar with the run, since my father and I traveled over it back in October on the Berkshire Scenic RDC (see: Berkshire Scenic’s Hoosac Valley—A Dozen Photos!)

After a taste of this surviving segment of B&A’s extension to North Adams, we followed the abandoned vestige of the line that runs southward to Pittsfield, then made the most of the late afternoon on the former B&A mainline!

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A Visit with Jim Shaughnessy and West Warren Then and Now.

My Visit with Jim Shaughnessy—February 2016.

The other day Jim Shaughnessy invited me over to look at some photographs.

Over the years Jim has contributed many excellent images for my books. I’ve lost track of the many different books of mine that feature his work, but at least 20 titles.

Presently, I’m gathering material for a detailed look at the Boston & Albany and Jim has hundreds of images of the B&A route in the New York Central and Penn Central eras.

Personally I find these photographs fascinating. Decades before I found the B&A and made photographs, Jim had been there to explore many of the same locations.

Jim holds up a photograph that he made of the westbound New England States at West Warren in 1970. The PC E-unit is long gone but the waterfall and old mill buildings survive.
Jim holds up a photograph that he made of the westbound New England States at West Warren in 1970. The PC E-unit is long gone but the waterfall and old mill buildings survive.

Compare the above view with a photo I made on December 28, 2015 of Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited at the same location.

Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited passes West Warren on December 28, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.
Amtrak 449 The Lake Shore Limited passes West Warren on December 28, 2015. Exposed with a FujiFilm X-T1.

In the 45-year interval between images, the railroad was reduced from directional double track to a single main track and the old road bridge over was replaced with a modern span that is slightly higher.

In recent years, CSX has undercut the line and cut back much of the brush along the right of way.

Jim’s Penn Central photo is just one of the many I’ve borrowed for consideration in the B&A book.

While I was visiting Jim, my friend Dennis LeBeau phoned from East Brookfield and set up the next day’s adventure which has ties to the B&A project among other things. Stay tuned for more!

Tracking the Light Posts Every Day!

Providence & Worcester on the Boston, Barre & Gardner—February 11, 2016.

The old Boston, Barre & Gardner Railroad was a 19th century line that ran from Worcester, Massachusetts to Peterboro, New Hampshire.

Today, the bottom portion of the line serves Providence & Worcester’s through connection with Pan Am Railways at Gardner.

Last fall I explored this line between Holden and Gardner looking for locations.

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, Mike Gardner and I arrived at Gardner in time to find Pan Am’s ED-8 making a drop for the P&W. Earlier, another train, probably symbol 28N had dropped autoracks, so the yard was nearly full of cars.

Based on past experience, I quickly surmised that the P&W hadn’t arrived from Worcester yet. So after a quick lunch, we started working our way south against the train.

Looking toward Worcester at Old Colony Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Looking toward Worcester at Old Colony Road in Princeton, Massachusetts. Exposed using my FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

North of Princeton, Massachusetts there are several grade crossing with nicely curving track. The snow covered ground made for Christmas card scene.

Mike and I didn’t have to wait long before P&W’s symbol freight WOGR (Worcester to Gardner) came charging northward. We were impressed by the length of the train. One unit was at the head-end with a second locomotive at the back of the train.

P&W's northward WOGR blasts for the rural crossing. This was an impressive freight carrying mixed freight and auto racks for interchange with Pan Am.
P&W’s northward WOGR blasts for the rural crossing. This was an impressive freight carrying mixed freight and auto racks for interchange with Pan Am.

P&W_WOGR_w_4005_at_Old_Colony_Road_north_of_Princeton_MA_DSCF1182

Old Colony Road. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Old Colony Road. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
Trailing view of the General Electric B39-8 at the back of the train. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
P&W works at Gardner to put together its southward freight. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.
P&W works at Gardner to put together its southward freight. FujiFilm X-T1 with 18-135mm Fujinon lens.

Southbound the train was even more impressive, but it required about 3 hours of switching to put it all together.

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CSX Monday Traffic: Snow, Cold and Being There—a Dozen New Photos.

 

Back to the old,  ‘f5.6 and be there’. (While paying close attention to the signals and scanner).

Lately CSX’s freight operations on the old Boston & Albany have been largely nocturnal.

Mondays on the other hand can prove busy in the morning.

February 8, 2016: I wasn’t out for the day, but rather running some errands. As always, I had my Lumix at the ready. Snow was forecast and it was beginning to flurry.

On my way through East Brookfield, I took the time to check the signals at CP64.

These were lit: “Limited Clear” westbound. I knew a train must be close.

Soon I could hear the clatter of cars descending Charlton Hill. Then affirmation on the radio, ‘Q427 clear signal main to main CP60’.

CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.
CSX Q427 is the connection from Pan Am Railways that runs from Portland, Maine to Selkirk, New York via the Ayer-Worcester gateway. On Pan Am it’s called POSE.

I made my photographs. But a few minutes later I heard that Q427 had stopped west of milepost 72 owing to difficulties with the locomotives.

That’s Warren, 72 miles west of South Station, Boston.

I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.
I caught up with the freight as the crew was discussing its difficulties with CSX’s dispatcher in Selkirk. Soon, Q427, with its mix of CSX and Pan Am Railways locomotives. was again on the move west.

 

Q427 had to meet two eastward trains at CP83 (Palmer).

I continued to follow west, while making photographs along the way. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
Pacing view along Route 67 in West Warren. Lumix LX7 photo.
My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.
My favorite field west of CP79. The view from Route 67.
The old Palmer freight house location.
The old Palmer freight house location.
It's been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.
It’s been a while since I saw a blue SD45 roll through Palmer on the Boston & Albany.

 

I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.
I arrived at CP83 just in time to hear the first of two eastward trains call the signal; “Limited Clear”. Not a second to waste: I was out of the car and immediately into position—switching the Lumix ‘on’ as I ran.

I made a few photos of the first meet, then opted to head back up the Quaboag Valley rather than stay put.

CSX_Q427_meet_w_eb_CSX_stacks_Palmer_Ma_tight_P1370806

Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.
Radiator comparison. Lumix LX7 view.

The snow was now getting heavy and it wasn’t getting any warmer.

At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).
At Electric Light Hill (near milepost 82) I photographed CSX Q264 (loaded autoracks for East Brookfield).

This was a heavy train. And despite the snow, it was easy enough to follow up the grade to Warren.

The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.
The snow adds depth, but to keep the image from become purely abstract I opted to include the bush at the left. The roar of the train filled the valley.

It was just 18 degrees at the Warren station.

That’s good enough for my morning errands!

All photos nominally adjusted for contrast and saturation in post processing.

CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.
CSX Q264 passes the old Boston & Albany station at Warren, Massachusetts.
This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?
This is the site of the old Warren yard. What happened to the old coal sheds? For that matter what happened to Anthracite? Car wash anyone?

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